Logical Positivism: The History of a “Caricature”

Isis 115 (1):46-64 (2024)
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Logical positivism is often characterized as a set of naive doctrines on meaning, method, and metaphysics. In recent decades, however, historians have dismissed this view as a gross misinterpretation. This new scholarship raises a number of questions. When did the standard reading emerge? Why did it become so popular? And how could commentators have been so wrong? This essay reconstructs the history of a “caricature” and rejects the hypothesis that it was developed by ill-informed Anglophone scholars who failed to appreciate the subtleties of European scientific philosophy. It argues that the received view has a more complicated history and was frequently promoted by the European positivists themselves. The essay shows that the view has roots in both American and European scientific philosophy and emerged as a result of the complex interplay between the two communities in the years before the intellectual migration.

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Sander Verhaegh
Tilburg University

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References found in this work

Scientific Thought.C. D. Broad - 1923 - Paterson, N.J.,: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Testability and meaning.Rudolf Carnap - 1936 - Philosophy of Science 3 (4):419-471.
Testability and meaning (part 1).Rudolf Carnap - 1936 - Philosophy of Science 3 (4):420-71.
Testability and meaning (part 2).Rudolf Carnap - 1937 - Philosophy of Science 4 (4):1-40.
Reconsidering Logical Positivism.Michael Friedman & Alan W. Richardson - 1999 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 62 (1):152-155.

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